The coffee shop is humming in the early morning as we wait in line to place our orders. As we shuffle toward the order counter you notice a few ear-budded business people are hunched over laptops, an older gentleman reads the paper at the high table while his wife reads a book, and a loud group of high school kids has just arrived for their morning caffeine. The aroma of coffee and toasted bagels surrounds us as we find a table, remove our coats and acknowledge how cold it is outside today. The typical small talk follows as we wait for drinks, did you finish your shopping? How’s your family? Finally, drinks in hand, we get comfortable and dive in as the fireplace heat begins to warm our toes. We’re meeting today because you asked. You’re in the midst of messy ministry, feeling a bit exhausted, and just need someone to listen that has been there, done that.
“How have you stayed in this for so long?” You bluntly begin.
I respond with, “I’ve learned that’s not the right question. The question is, WHY have I stayed in this for so long?”
“No,” you answer a bit frustrated, “I mean how? This is exhausting, hard, and overwhelming. I’m not sure I signed up for all this!”
“Didn’t you sign up to do ministry with students?”
“They are exhausting, hard, and overwhelming so why would ministry with them be any different? Sadly, you may not have known it, but this is what you signed up for.”
You look at me a bit defeated and stay quiet.
“You can do all things through Christ,” I say with a smile. “Did you go this route because you thought it was all heartfelt sharing and huddles? Did you choose youth ministry because you ultimately just want to be a pastor and this is a step?” As I pause, you begin to take this in. “Did you choose students because you thought the flexible job in a church looked like fun? Maybe it’s because you love to see transformed students, maybe you had an incredible youth leader and you want to be the same for someone else, maybe, ultimately, you feel God has called you to serve him in this way. What’s your why?”
Why have you chosen ministry?
Why do you choose to pour into students and lead them?
I continue, “Whatever your WHY, it needs to outweigh the how. When your WHY is worth it, you figure out how.”
Why! That’s the question. Because of my WHY, equipping students to walk in their fullest way as disciples of Jesus, I had to figure out how to manage the hard, messy, unpredictable world of students and families in ministry. The WHY has outweighed the days of hard, the voices of conflict, and the seasons of tired. My WHY has led me to the how I’ve needed to keep going. For Example:
- Because I want to last in ministry, I have learned that self-care is critical.
- Because I want to lead well in ministry, growth is invaluable.
- Because I can’t do this alone, empowerment of others is monumental.
- Because I want to help students find freedom in Jesus, my own freedom needs to come first.
- Because I want every single student and family to know they are loved by God, made in his image and have purpose, I need to believe this for myself.
The how is; self-care, learning, sharing, and holding onto Jesus tightly so that I can continue to pursue the Why. You need to figure out the how that works for you to maintain your why.
Ecclesiastes 3 tells us there’s a season or everything, seasons do change. Yes, we like the smiles when we show up to a basketball game, we love the Thank You from a parent after a retreat, but we do what we do because we want students to experience the love of Jesus and his transformation in their lives. Students are messy, conflict-driven, self-focused people – that’s the deal. But, we get to lead them to Jesus!
Whatever the season for you right now, take a breath and remember:
You are called by God to share his story and love with students, this is an incredible honor. Let the blessing of that honor sink in deep and fortify you. You are WHY He did what He did, you are WHY he was born in a manger, you are WHY he healed blind men, you are WHY he suffered, you are WHY he lived. He knows you are worth it. You matter. You are capable and you are needed. He is the WHY, and He’ll show you how.
Are you feeling defeated and tired? Has the mess of ministry overshadowed the wonder? It’s time to ask remind yourself why you do what you do.
What do you need to do to hold onto it?